Jack the Ripper – Was there a spate of preliminary murders?

DATED: 25.08.14

When it comes to the Whitechapel murders, it is largely believed that there were five victims, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly known collectively as the Canonical Five.

However, during the investigation itself and over the years following, several other murders around the same time have been attributed to Jack the Ripper, many occurring before the first “official” murder of Mary Nichols on August 31st, 1888.

There may be some truth to this, as it is rare (though not unheard of) for a serial killer to just emerge and then launch into a spree, there are often a few assaults and attacks before graduating to full blown murder. Here are three of the supposed early murders which have been linked to the Ripper killings.

Annie Millwood

Annie Millwood, a widow in her late thirties, was admitted to a workhouse infirmary with stab wounds to her lower body. In a statement she gave to the East London Post she claimed that she had been attacked by a man she didn’t know who was wielding a clasp knife. Though she survived the attack, she was later found dead in the workhouse; a subsequent inquest found that she had not died from her injuries, but from natural causes.

Though information on Annie and the attack she sustained are sketchy at best, some have been quick to point out that her assailant slashed at her lower abdomen, a pattern which was seen to gruesome effect in the Rippers later victims. Could Annie have been assaulted by the Ripper? We will never know, but it is an interesting prelude to the killing spree which was to come.

Ada Wilson

About a month after the death of Annie Millwood, Ada Wilson was attacked and had her throat cut by a stranger who had brazenly knocked on her door and threatened her for money. Luckily, Ada survived the attack and was able to give a description of her attacker as well as a detailed statement about what happened. Ada claimed that while sat at home there was a knock at the door, she answered and was faced by a man of average height with a moustache and a red face. He was wearing dark clothing and a wide brimmed hat. He threatened her, and when she refused, stabbed her twice in the throat before fleeing the scene.

Ada, though officially a dress maker, also supplemented her income with prostitution; it is thought she was attacked by one of her clients though she denied this to police at the time. The theory among some ‘Ripperologists’ is that Jack the Ripper was trying to find a viable hunting ground and the attack on Ada was something of a trial run which went wrong.

“Fairy Fay”

Fairy Fay was reportedly murdered when she made her way through a side street on her way home from the Mitre Square pub. Though there are some who claim that she was the Rippers first real victim, there is a real lack of physical evidence when it comes to the attack itself; there are no police records relating to the crime and no historical newspaper coverage.

It is widely believed that Fairy Fay was made up by an overzealous journalist at the height of the murders, where panic and speculation ran riot. Though some speculate it could have been a case of mistaken identity, stating that the details of an older murder case perhaps got mixed up in the fervent media circus surrounding Jack the Ripper, others believe she is an outright fabrication.

Though we may never know the truth of what occurred in London in 1888, there is a wealth of evidence and intriguing stories. If you want to know more about the Ripper and see his stalking grounds first hand, then join us on one of our Jack the Ripper Tours. With our clever blend of technology and impressive story telling we have produced one of the best London tours available; full details and booking information can be found online!


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